Sunday, August 27, 2006

Blue Monday: Josh White

Josh White is one of those rare individuals that got the chance to reinvent himself, and he did it several times.

Born in Greenville, South Carolina to a preacher and his choir-singing wife, Josh White started his singing career in the church. As he grew older, he dropped out of school to work with other street singers throughout the Southeast. His guitar mastery and strong voice earned him a reputation as one of the premiere artists of the Piedmont Blues. As his guitar and vocal skills sharpened, his musical tastes widened and he decided to move to the urban areas of the North. There he found a middle-class, mostly white audience at the coffeehouses and his style changed to reflect what his new audience wanted, folk music, sometimes as a solo act with his guitar and sometimes accompanied by a small jazz band. During the 1940's he began to write protest songs and work for the growing civil rights movement. His involvement with political and civil rights causes got him blacklisted. In an attempt to escape the blacklist, he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee about the communist influence in the entertainment industry. His career never fully recovered. From the mid 1950's until his death in 1969, Josh White played mostly at folk venues, coffeehouses and festivals, and his songs reflected his earlier convictions as well as the times. Today he is mostly remembered for his songs of social activism such as "One Meatball", "Jim Crow Train", and "Welfare Blues".

Here are a couple cuts from his earlier, Piedmont Style Blues recordings.

Josh White - Bad Depression Blues.mp3

Josh White - Hard Time Blues.mp3

Recordings by Josh White are available from Document Records, also has a few worth looking into.

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Blogger Darcy said...

I did a post on Josh's sister Judy a while back
Do you by any chance know what happened to her from the 70s on?

August 28, 2006 3:58 AM  
Blogger Darcy said...

Oops - I meant daughter, not sister.

August 28, 2006 3:59 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Hi Darcy, I recall that post about Judy. It was the first I had heard that Josh White had a performing daughter. You are right, there is little info available. Josh White did have a son who performed also. I have a Josh White Jr. CD in my collection, but it is the only title I have ever found by him.

August 28, 2006 7:11 AM  

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